Saturday, January 21, 2017

Anti-Abortion Activists Look Askance at Women's March

The Women's March on Washington is scheduled for Saturday, January 21st in Washington D.C. A rally featuring Angela Davis, Cecile Richards, Judith LeBlanc, Gloria Steinem, and others will begin at 10:00 a.m. between 3rd and 4th Streets southwest on Independence Avenue, followed by a march at 1:15 p.m. Over 600 sister marches at home and abroad have also taken place or will take place.

The Women's March website describes the gathering as an opportunity to affirm women's rights and human rights in the wake of the 2016 election.
"The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."
Planned Parenthood and the National Resource Defense Council serve as the march's premier partners, with hundreds of other organizations listed as march partners as well.

Planned Parenthood's involvement in the march has provoked the ire of anti-abortion activists, as has the march's pro-choice stance. For example, writing for Life News, Steven Ertelt claimed that Womens March organizers "have already admitted that it is not designed to support women but rather to support abortion and the Planned Parenthood abortion business." Other anti-abortion figures took to social media to express their disapproval.

However, some anti-abortion activists have taken a different approach, arguing that anti-abortion sentiments and feminism are compatible, and anti-abortion people should have a place in the Women's March.

Members of this camp were galvanized by the march's exclusion of an anti-abortion group. According to the Atlantic, an anti-abortion group called New Wave Feminists was granted partnership in the march on January 13. Several days later, Women's March organizers removed New Wave Feminists from their list of partners. The Women's March released a statement on January 16th affirming its pro-choice stance.
"The Women's March platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one. We want to assure all of our partners, as well as participants, that we are pro-choice as clearly stated in our Unity Principles. We look forward to marching on behalf of individuals who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions.

The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women's March on Washington. We apologize for this error."
Anti-abortion activists have criticized the march for excluding them, insisting that feminism should include them under its tent. For example, Aimee Murphy, founder of Life Matters Journal, penned a commentary piece for the Washington Post in which she insisted that, "Planned Parenthood does not own women's rights." Murphy argued that anti-abortion activists have a place in the women's march, claiming that "It is possible to be both pro-life and a feminist ... and opposed to President-elect Donald Trump."

Carol Crossed and Eric Anthony also penned a commentary piece for the Washington Post. Crossed and Anthony argued that the Women's March should honor suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony by welcoming anti-abortion participants. In a January 17th commentary piece at the Daily Signal, Katrina Trinko slammed "liberal feminists who constantly demand pro-life women be excluded" and claimed that "the pro-choice position of the “Women’s March” is excluding a lot of American women". In a Life News piece, Micaiah Bilger accused the march of "contradicting its self-described mission of inclusiveness" by keeping anti-abortion groups at arm's length.

I find these complaints less than compelling. Feminism is, among other things, the notion that women should be empowered to make their own decisions. Anti-abortion activists seek to prevent women from making choices about when and if they bear children, thereby disempowering them. Furthermore, reproductive rights are inseparable from other aspects of women's lives. If women cannot control when and if they have children, their educational attainment, employment, civic participation, and health all suffer. If we as a society want women to thrive, we must protect women's right to reproductive autonomy. We must strive for safe, affordable abortion access.

Groups that seek to curtail women's reproductive rights are a bad fit with a march championing women's rights. The Women's March has made a prudent decision to avoid partnerships with those who oppose women's reproductive self-determination.

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